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It Started with a Dream

iCook After School all started with two friends (Lesya and Olga) passionate about food, cooking and nutrition, who wanted to make a difference by teaching children how to cook and enjoy healthy meals.  In 2014, iCook was started as an after-school cooking program for children at elementary schools in the Chicago area. Lesya and Olga share a philosophy — that food is nourishment, and that learning to cook at an early age is a beneficial skill to carry into adulthood. 

Lesya Merena

While Lesya holds a bachelor of science in finance from DePaul University, her real passion is nutrition. At an early age, she discovered that her body reacted differently to certain foods, and eventually she learned she had a sensitivity to gluten. She became very interested in the science of nutrition and in choosing a diet made up of healthful foods: foods that made her feel good – inside and out. The more she studied and learned about nutrition, the more she realized how helpful it would be to have known this information at an early age. Lesya loves helping children in the kitchen so they can learn to enjoy good food (vegetables, beans and whole grains) and so they can develop a healthy relationship with food right from the start.

Olga Davis

Olga holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Dickinson State University and an MBA in finance from the University of North Dakota. She is also a CFP®  professional. Olga’s passion is working with children – helping them with reading, cooking and other life skills. In a way, she combines math skills and cooking interests by teaching children how to measure and learn fractions while they prepare delicious, nutritious recipes. She has been volunteering with children for several years with Big Brother Big Sister and at Working in the Schools (WITS), a tutoring and mentoring program focused on helping children with their reading. She left her career in finance to focus all her efforts and time on her passion working with kids. 



Ian Corse

A transplant in Chicago, Ian Corse was raised on a small organic vegetable farm--an experience that continues to inspire a passion for fresh ingredients. As an advocate for hands-on experiences that incite engagement and exploration, Ian has worked with children of all ages, developing youth programming in a variety of summer camps and after-school activities. He is very excited to be providing the opportunity for kids to discover their own love of food, multicultural cuisine, and culinary adventure!

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Laura Golian

Laura has a passion for making learning accessible and enjoyable. She helped design and facilitate different community-based education programs for many years, giving her insight into both sides of the process. Her interest in education and penchant for adventure led her to Taiwan, where she spent two years teaching English to elementary-aged students. Laura believes food is an important means for cultural exploration and community building.  Now that she is back in the US, she is excited about the opportunity to continue to engage with young learners and promote health and nutrition. 


Connor Jones

A recent graduate from Moody Bible Institute, Connor Jones grew up constantly on the move engaging in different cultures and foods from all over the world. From Alaska to China, you could say he’s somewhat of a world traveler. Connor fell in love with teaching in high school, which opened the door to him pursuing a bachelor's degree in TESOL. He has taught kids from all ages and loves being in the front of a classroom. He is ecstatic with this opportunity and the chance to be able to work with kids while also being a positive influence in their lives!


Lisa Carlson, MS, RDN

Lisa holds a bachelor of science in nutrition from Cornell University and a master of science in nutrition communications from Boston University. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) with a dietetics degree from the Oregon Health Science University in Portland, Oregon. Lisa’s career has led her down several exciting food paths involving cooking, writing, and nutrition communications. Earlier in her career she wrote about food at Glamour magazine and at COOK’S magazine. 

Tiffany White, MS, RD, LDN

Tiffany holds a bachelor of science in kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and master of science in nutrition, also from UIC. She completed UIC's Coordinated Program in Dietetics to earn her master's degree and Registered Dietitian (RD) credential. Tiffany also works as a certified personal trainer, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge of nutrition and exercise to help others live their healthiest life.  


Our culinary instructors come from different backgrounds and have experience working with children. Many of them are registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs)—so you can be sure that “health” is an important ingredient in each recipe. We believe that hiring qualified individuals contributes to our overall success and students’ safely. 


Background checks serve as an important part of the selection process.Teachers who will be working at Catholic schools are required to complete VIRTUS training.

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Danielle C.



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